Focal Point: The Beginning of Literacy Rochester

As we enter 2024 and our 60th anniversary, let us share some highlights from the first few years of the organization. The first five years of the program had significant growth and peaked community interest. A literacy program of a one to one basis to tutor adults was unheard of in Rochester at the time. Take a trip through history with us as we explore the later half of the 1960s. And, stay tuned throughout this year for more Focal Point stories.


The program launched as “Each One Teach One” and was sponsored by the Church Women United, Rochester Vicinity. Queenie Zuehlke is the founder of the Rochester chapter of Literacy Volunteers (LV). She worked directly with Ruth Colvin, founder of LV, to get teaching materials, ask questions, and find others who wanted to support the literacy mission.  

Queenie earned her literacy teaching certificate in October 1964. Ruth Colvin instructed Queenie in this workshop. Queenie was trained to teach with the approved Laubach method, which used pictures and phonetics on flip charts. 

*Frank Laubach is the founder of Each One Teach One whereas Ruth Colvin is the founder of Literacy Volunteers. The Rochester literacy program was initially Each One Teach One, and then transitioned to become “Literacy Volunteers”  

The first location that the program would call home was on 130 E. Main Street, where Church Women United was. In the beginning, there were eight students and eight volunteer teachers, but these numbers would only grow. 

It was originally estimated that 7,000 Monroe County residents were illiterate. These statistics were later re-examined after the 1970s census was released and the number jumped up to 20,000 estimated illiterates in Monroe County. 

December 1964 to January 1965
Democrat and Chronicle


By July 1965, Ruth Colvin’s literacy groups officially branched away from Laubach’s to form the new “Literacy Volunteers.” The first volunteer training was held this year, and there were 86 students and 93 teachers. 

“Thank you for working with us throughout the State. We hope you’ll continue and grow even more next year (it takes much more dedication to keep going)– for we need every “candle” — (Yours in particular) to make a bright light for everyone. 


Literacy Volunteers continued to grow and become a recognizable name in the Rochester community. Word spread across the county about the literacy program that aimed to help illiterate adults. In 1966, the organization published its first newsletter and cleverly named it LitBits. 

Furthermore, four volunteer teacher training workshops were conducted to address the urgent need for bilingual tutors. By the year’s end, there were over 175 teachers actively volunteering and over 200 community members trained.  


By 1967, Queenie stepped down as president and passed the baton to Betty Patton who was president until 1969. Moreover, Queenie was also honored by the Rochester Federation of Women’s Club for founding the Each One Teach One program. The federation recognized her achievement in the field of education and her dedication to help those in need.  


The number of teachers continued to grow over the first five years of operation, and by April 1968, there were 211 volunteers in the program with 250 students being taught. 

The earliest annual report was found to be from April 1968 and provides a glimpse into the impact that the organization was making in the community. People who wanted to read were getting help and those who wanted to help were given the opportunities to support someone in their community. 

Want to hear more stories? Over the years, thousands of subscribers received updates about the organization through LitbitsWe welcome new LitBits subscribers! Sign up now – Click Here or refer to the “Contact Information” section on this page. 

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